Jonathan Chan, Founder & CEO
Futurists and industry experts predict that 65 % of jobs existing today will disappear by 2030. The revolution steered by automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and augmented and virtual reality will change the very nature of work where machines will replace the current manually driven tasks. The coming age of smart machines requires a workforce that has complex problem-solving and computational thinking competencies, combined with a creative mindset. However, “education today doesn’t prepare a child for the jobs of the future,” reveals Jonathan Chan, Founder & CEO of JULES Corporation, an education technology company based in Singapore. The current knowledge-based education system focuses on memorization and rote learning, leaving children devoid of the essential 21st century skills to face the ongoing digital transformation that would reshape our future in terms of how we live and work. The idea that extracurricular activities like painting, ballet, and music will sharpen cognitive flexibility and complex problem-solving skills has proven to be far-fetched. “So, for the first time in history, we don’t know what to teach our children,” says Chan.
JULES is revolutionizing education through its technology solutions that are tailored for the early childhood years (3-8 years old), the age group now proven by neuroscience to have the greatest potential to grasp new knowledge instantly and continue developing these competencies throughout their learning journey. Introducing critical, logical, and computational thinking during these years is key to acquiring the life skills necessary to be a productive member of society in the digital age.
As digital and mobile technologies become ubiquitous and permeate deep into our lives, most children are equally exposed to these gadgets at an early age and naturally gravitate towards the appeal of the screens in the same manner that captured their parents’ attention. JULES recognized that this behavioral pattern can be used to create a value proposition to ensure that “kids’ screen time” is used for a good cause. Over a period of more than 2 years in research and development and subsequent 7 months of trials in preschools, the company developed a unique solution by harnessing experts in the fields of early childhood education, curriculum design, child neuropsychology, and combined them with award winning specialists in game design, animation, computer programming, and technologists to build a proprietary and the world’s first computational thinking curriculum, the School of Fish (“SoF”), specifically designed for preschool children.
This game-changing curriculum (pun intended), leverages gamification to introduce children in their formative early childhood years to enable their thinking skills to create, analyze, and solve problems using their inherent creativity.
SoF brings excitement into children’s learning–via the same computer screens that have captivated their attention in the first place.
The skill required to tell a computer what to do is coding. The thought process behind coding is computational thinking
The story-based curriculum packaged as games with immersive 3D animations and avatars keeps children engaged to the action transpiring on the digital screen. “Our solution is not an edutainment game—such as Ninjas shooting alphabets or Goldfish learning numbers—where children get bored in no time. Children are instead exposed to problem solving concepts through games that everyone plays and can relate to.” The logic, for instance, can be learning sequencing, where a child is required to plan and execute a series of steps ahead of time in one of the carefully designed games. Every game has a hundred levels, with complexity increasing gradually at each level. Learning such skills serve as a great primer for building a child’s foundational programming skills where algorithmic thinking is a core coding principle. And with the game logic then applied to classroom activities that provide examples of how these concepts can be used in daily life to solve problems, children now start to acquire analytical and cognitive capabilities that were previously not easily taught at such a young age.
While coding is increasingly becoming a subject taught in the early grades, JULES’s philosophy is that the thinking process behind coding is more important than learning coding itself. And with children “universally disillusioned with the same irrelevant “one-size fits all” knowledge-based approach to learning and at the same time practically living their lives online, a completely different learning paradigm is necessary to address these concerns,” said Chan. He further explains that JULES strikes the right chord with children as “our curriculum resonates with their current psyche towards gaming, making game-based learning unequivocally the optimal way to reach every child and the best way to enable them with thinking skills, regardless of whatever embedded educational system that they are currently stuck in.”
Thriving in the New World Order
Cherie Hearts Kindergartens, owned by an Australian listed public company in the education sector, adopted JULES’s SoF as the foundation of its digital literacy curriculum. JULES’s success of close to 100 percent retention of its customers (i.e., preschools licensing its curriculum) is due to the high validation provided by each child experiencing their enlightenment upon completing the programme. “Our curriculum incorporates age-appropriate IQ tests that serves to calibrate each child’s base level intellect, and we have carefully designed our product to level the playing field,” says Chan. JULES’s SoF can also help physically challenged children to be equally capable of tackling the challenges of the future. The company’s app-based platform offers dashboards designed uniquely for parents and teachers. All stakeholders can track each child’s assessment with the data curated and subsequently make informed decisions for better learning. “With continuous iteration and incorporating feedback from teachers, parents, and children, we strive to combine our teaching pedagogy with technology to “Engage, Entertain, and Enlighten” our children.”
Several accolades have already elevated the prominence of JULES in the education technology domain, providing an impetus to expand globally. Chan says that SoF is only a prelude to the Company’s ambitions in enabling all children with computational thinking capabilities. JULES is building a platform for next-generation e-learning through each child’s personal learning companion.